summer skirt refashioned from old dress shirts

It seemed like last week was dress shirt refashion week on Pinterest…I came across several really cute ones, including this one inspired by Grosgrain.

They got me thinking about all the dress shirts sitting in my closet left over from my office job days. I should really do something with those, I thought. Here’s the end result:

finished refashioned skirt

I used three shirts – two long sleeved and one short sleeved, all shades of blue. The long sleeved ones were striped and the other was solid.

These guys were workhorses of my business casual wardrobe, especially when I was under 30 and still making an effort to look professional and grown up. I particularly loved to wear the dark blue one with a black jacket with a very sharp collar and lab-coat length hem (remember those!?).

blue striped shirt BEFORE a165space light blue striped shirt BEFORE


I wanted a pull-on skirt with an elastic waist, that was wider and fuller than the tutorials I had seen. I wanted the end result to be very casual and patchwork-y.

I decided on a gored skirt that would showcase the different stripes, and a 3 inch wide elastic waistband that would show off the gathers at the waist.

Three shirts that were mostly the same size meant I’d have twelve gores, four from each shirt. The long sleeves from two of the shirts would become the waist band.

three shirts = twelve parts

The first step was to cut the shirts into parts. I cut off the sleeves, cuffs, and collars, but kept the button plackets in place. I thought it would look cute on the final skirt to leave the buttons visible.

I also picked out any bust or back darts with a seam ripper so the fabric would lie flat as possible.

The next step was to make a pattern for my skirt gores.

skirt gore template

drafting your pattern
For a wide, flippy gored skirt, each gore should be a trapezoid shape. You only need three measurements to draft this pattern: how long your skirt will be (A), your waist measurement divided by how many gores you have (B), and how wide you want your skirt hem to be divided by how many gores you have (C). Don’t forget to add seam and hem allowances!

a word on the waistline
A gathered skirt needs a waistband that is bigger than your actual waist. How much bigger depends on how full you want your skirt to be. For a nice full skirt, try 150% of your waist measurement. So, if your waist = 30 inches, your skirt waistband = 45 inches. On your pattern, B = 3.75 inches (45 divided by 12, or the number of gores in your skirt) + seam allowances.

pattern layout on shirt remnant

I laid out my pattern on my shirt parts at an angle, because I wanted to preserve the button plackets.

Once I had all twelve gores cut, I spent some time arranging them in a pleasing order, since I had three different fabrics going – two different stripes and a solid.

skirt gores in a pleasing arrangement

I decided to keep the buttons showing, but to sew over the button holes…which meant my twelve gores were no longer identical sizes.

This didn’t bother me, since I was going for a casual patchwork look. But if you wanted your gores to be identical, this is something you’d deal with at the cutting and layout stage

Because I topstitched the shirt parts with the buttons attached, if I wanted them to be the same size as the other gores, I would have cut them without a seam allowance on that side.


Once all twelve gores were sewn together, the next step was to prepare the fabric waistband. The long sleeves from two of the shirts were perfect for this job!

I cut open the sleeve seams, and cut them into identical rectangles 6.5″ wide. I needed fabric that would cover both sides of my 3″ wide elastic, plus seam allowance to stitch to the skirt itself.

After stitching on the waistband, I then sewed the last seam on the skirt, joining the gores on each end and the waistband, so I had a complete skirt, although one that was not yet wearable.

attach the waistband a165space a waistband 150% the size of my waist!

You see how huge my waistband looked! The next step was to insert the elastic into the fabric waistband.

preparing the elastic waistband
Before I got to gathering the skirt, I needed to prepare my elastic waistband. You can use this technique for any elastic waistband…you don’t even need to measure your waist!

1. Wrap a length of elastic around your waist where you’d like your skirt to sit, making sure to stretch the elastic so it is snug enough to keep the skirt on you, (but not too tightly!), and overlap the ends 1″. Snip. Now you have a length of elastic that will form your waistband.

2. Overlap the ends of the elastic 1″ and sew them together with a zig zag stitch over both raw edges. Now you have a closed circle of elastic.

stitch ends of elastic band together

Now I needed reference points on my elastic and on the fabric waistband of the skirt, so I could match them up to sew together, since the skirt is significantly bigger than the elastic. The easiest way to do this is with evenly spaced pins. Check it:

3. Fold your elastic band flat in half, and place a pin at each end. Imagine that these mark the side seams of your skirt.

4. Then fold your elastic band flat the other way, so that the two pins meet in the middle. Now imagine that these pins mark the center front and center back of your skirt.

mark one end of the elastic band with a pin a165space make the pins in each end meet in the center

Place two more pins in each end of the elastic band. Now you have four evenly spaced pins, marking each side seam and the center front and center back.

5. Next, make the front center pin meet one of the side seam pins, and the back center pin meet the other side seam pin. Then use two more pins to mark the new side seams.

Repeat the process until you have eight evenly spaced pins (without measuring)!

eight evenly spaced pins

making the skirt fit the elastic waistband
Time to put the gathers in! This part is just like making ruffles…I used the longest basting stitch on my machine to put in two stitch lines all around the top of the fabric waistband of my skirt, 3/8″ apart.

If you want to take these stitches out later, I recommend using a contrasting color thread, so they’re easy to pick out. I used the same color thread since I planned on leaving them in.

long basting stitches

The next step was to mark the skirt with pins, using the same technique I used on the elastic band, so I had eight evenly spaced pins all around the top of my skirt.

After the skirt was properly pinned, I gently pulled on the basting threads to gather the skirt slightly, making sure the gathers were evenly spaced all around the skirt.

matching pins in the skirt to the elastic

Then, I matched the pins in the skirt to the pins in the elastic band, pulling on the basting stitches to gather the skirt evenly between each set of pins.

Once the skirt was gathered enough to fit the elastic band exactly, I secured them together with more pins, and sewed them together along the top edge, using a nice wide zig zag stitch.

waistband gathered and stitched to the elastic

Lovely! Look at all those pretty gathers!

Now, the next step was to fold the elastic over, so that the top edge of the elastic (now sewn to the gathered edge of the skirt waistband) met the inside seam where the skirt was sewn to the fabric waistband.

But the skirt was still bigger than the elastic waistband down there, so I needed another basting stitch in order to do more gathering.

This time, I used red thread, because I knew I wanted to take this stitch out after the gathering was done, and the elastic was sewn in place.

another long basting stitch

This step was a little bit tricky, because I had no pins to guide me, but I just eyeballed it…I pulled on the red basting stitch until the fabric was gathered enough so the elastic waistband could meet the top seam of the skirt neatly.

I pinned the elastic to the skirt all the way around, making sure the gathers were as even as I could make them. Then I sewed it in place, again using a zig zag stitch.

waistband gathered and pinned and waiting to be sewn

Finito! The last step was to remove the red basting stitch, and my skirt was ready to wear!

I may go back and even out the hem, but honestly I probably won’t. I didn’t cut off the shirt hems when I was cutting the skirt gores, so the finished skirt hem is all uneven and wonky, but I kind of like it that way.

wonky hem

You can never have too many fun summer skirts!

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10 thoughts on “summer skirt refashioned from old dress shirts

  1. me too! I will probably make at least one more of these…the weight of the fabric is perfect for a summer skirt!

  2. I’m inspired by the button detail! I’ve started a project to turn my boyfriend’s discarded dress shirts into cute/creative/still-businesslike tops I can wear under my suit jackets, and keeping the buttons will hit all three of those criteria.

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